Our economic and political mess became more clear once I realized that most of the important political deals take place in the Mos Eisley Cantina. You know the scene from the first "Star Wars" movie in 1977: a dark, smoky bar located somewhere in a twilight zone: a liminal and lawless hideout where the ethically reprehensible is the norm.
We know our elected officials don't do their political work up in the daylight of our world, because none of the big ticket laws they pass have anything to do with what the majority of our citizens want. There are differences between the two political parties, but they're differences of degree, not kind. How can it be that the people we elected to serve us routinely sell us out to the highest bidders?
The majority of US citizens are against our illegal invasions of Iraq, Afghanistan, and our bombing of Libya to remove Qaddafi, the brutal dictator we have coddled for decades. And a majority of our citizens would also be against our other four military operations - in Yemen, Pakistan, the Horn of Africa and Columbia - if they knew about them. Most of us were not fooled when President Obama said he unilaterally authorized bombing Libya because his heart bled for the half million citizens Qaddafi will probably kill - though for the past week, it seems we've stopped caring. If our hearts really bled that easily for the slaughter of innocents, why didn't we invade countries that had no oil? And if we think the death of a half million innocents is repugnant enough to demand preventative action, what about President Clinton's sanctions against Iraq, which caused the deaths of half a million Iraqi children? When asked on US television if she [Madeline Albright, US secretary of state] thought that the death of 500,000 Iraqi children from sanctions in Iraq was a price worth paying, Albright replied: "This is a very hard choice, but we think the price is worth it." (See here.)
The majority of our citizens want our soldiers brought home now. As John Kerry said to our House Foreign Relations Committee in 1970 about the ongoing Vietnam War: "How do you ask someone to be the last person to die for a mistake?" Today's answer seems to be that members of Congress do it without much genuine emotion, because wars - whether right or wrong - are immensely profitable for some of the corporations whose lobbyists woo our representatives in dark places. And few if any of their children are going to be in those wars.
Writing on April 19, Steven Thomma cited a recent McClatchy-Marist poll that painted some very clear pictures of what American citizens want:
- On tackling the deficit, 64 percent of voters support raising taxes on incomes above $250,000.
- Americans clearly don't want the government to cut Medicare, the government health program for the elderly, or Medicaid, the program for the poor.
- 80 percent of all voters - and 68 percent of conservatives - oppose cuts to those programs. (See article here.)
A majority of us want corporations and the wealthy to pay their fair share of taxes, and want the necessary cuts to come from reducing our military budget and taxing the corporations and individuals who actually have money, and spend millions a year on lawyers to find loopholes, while creating and disseminating disinformation to mislead the rest of us.
Most of us want single-payer or public option health insurance. We're the only developed country in the world that has no guaranteed insurance. That lack of health care leads to the death of an estimated 18,000 of us every year. While we have the most expensive health care in the world, the quality of our health care is 37th of the 190 countries included in the studies. Why don't our hearts bleed over the deaths of our own citizens? Why don't we rise up against economic and political policies that remove our rights, take our homes and savings and keep pushing us down into what is beginning to be a permanent underclass. We would like our leaders' hearts to bleed over the disempowering, poverty and death of our own citizens first. (See here.)
We want the cuts to come from the military budget: we're wasting trillions. We do not want cuts in social services: Medicaid, Medicare, Social Security, and the rest. We don't want the cuts to come from education, or from maintaining our crumbling infrastructure. And so on.
Why don't we, the people, get what we want from those we elected - not to rule us, but to serve us? Again and again, after claiming they understand the will of the people, our leaders duck out of sight, into one of those dark places that are our versions of the Mos Eisley Cantina. They return with new bipartisan bills that add more economic weight on the backs of those with little money.
Almost always, they Hoover the money upwards, to serve what Nobel laureate Joseph Stiglitz calls "The government of the 1 percent, by the 1 percent and for the 1 percent." Or they stuff our tax dollars into the pockets of vulture capitalists on Wall Street, or spread our wealth among the clients for whom the horde of lobbyists are pimping - with about two dozen lobbyists per member of the House and Senate.
Like Charlie Brown, liberals/progressives keep believing that - surely this time - like Lucy, Obama will hold the football. He won't. A sufficient majority of our politicians and pundits won't either.
It's not just us: similar actions are taking place all over the world, in the current wave of uprisings. Nearly all of them show citizens rising to protest the unfair economic (and therefore political) disparity between the rich and the rest.
Our leaders don't much mind our ineffectual marches, protests and speeches: they're a good way for us to let off steam, so we can once more become manageable. Meanwhile, police force and beat protesters to teach them that we are moving into a police state where disobedience will be dealt with harshly. These are harsh accusations. Yet, our president has issued a "fatwa" against an American citizen - the radical Muslim cleric Anwar al-Awlaki - and assumed the authority to have anyone assassinated, or arrested and held indefinitely without charges or any due process. And while he conspires with many Democrats, most Republicans, and just about everyone in the military-industrial-Congressional complex to begin cutting most or all of our essential security nets, he and Congress squander trillions of dollars, send thousands of our soldiers to their death, and perhaps hundreds of thousands of citizens and "freedom fighters" in the Middle East in "wars" (illegal invasions) we cannot win. Here at home, all the executive branch has to do is call someone a "terrorist," then hunt them down, capture them and store them somewhere the sun doesn't shine - without formal charges or any of the "due process" about which we like to brag. (See story here.)
It's naïve to think our "security forces" wouldn't use as much violence as necessary, once our president declares that protesters are "terrorists." Absolute power absolutely corrupts those who think they have it.
Our leaders' real priorities were decided in a dark hiding place we cannot enter. Try to imagine what that world where the sun doesn't shine might look and feel like. Then, take three minutes to review, or view for the first time, George Lucas' classic scene in the Mos Eisley Cantina, and see how it compares with your own wildest imagination. View it here.